5-Step Guide: How to Build a Membership Website That Makes Money (Without Coding)

by Naomi Jul 09, 2021

Hey, there! Are you planning to build a membership website in 2021? How do I know? Well, for two reasons? First, because you are reading this piece. And second, because that’s what I too decided a few years back. 

Back when I was trying to make money writing blogs, putting up affiliate links, and signing up for publisher program, I didn’t know much about building a membership. So I kept writing, re-writing, and updating my blogs. Kept uploading them for free, people visited them, left comments, claps, and likes, but all to no avail. 

Why? Because times have changed, and now there is just so much content online that a simple blog won’t cut it. You have to deliver expert and exclusive content and make sure that you have a whole community of readers subscribed to it. That way you know where your next cheque is coming from.  

And when you are a content creator, what’s the best option for you to ensure that? Right! To build and start membership website based on a niche that drives members to your membership (Did I just type too “membership” too many times? I guess I did). 

A membership could easily be one of the best ways to share the fruits of your wisdom with the whole world and getting paid for it in return.     

This model has been so wildly successful, and for so long, that you’ll find a majority of media outlets sharing their well-researched articles via this. Take New YorkTimes, for example. 

Build a Free Membership Now and Earn More With Your Content

In 2020, a year marred by a pandemic that brought developed economies to a total halt and the developing ones to their knees, NYT’s digital arm added 2.3 million digital-only subscriptions. And their growth was not limited to this number alone. 

According to Meredith Kopit Levien, the company’s chief executive since 2013, NYT’s “digital revenue overtook print for the first time”, and the revenue from digital subscription became their “largest” one too.   

From top digital marketing bloggers to world-famous chefs, and jewelry designers to media houses, individuals and organizations from all walks of life trust, and continue to trust, this membership model of business to create, publish, and share whatever they think is best for their audiences.   

Aren’t you all fired up now to create a membership site of your own and pull in such amazing growth for yourself? If yes, then let’s have a look at what this blog is going to cover in the next few minutes and how all that would benefit you in getting a robust membership website without forcing you to write a single line of code:  

  • What exactly is a membership website?  
  • What are some top membership websites of the world? 
  • What questions to ask yourself before finalizing your membership niche?  
  • What kind of websites can benefit from the membership model? 
  • How to price your membership?  
  • What are the steps to follow when creating a membership website?  

What Exactly is a Membership Website? 

Just to clear the clouds of doubt regarding memberships and leave no space for them in the future, let’s have a look at what exactly is a membership website. 
A membership website, often called “members-only” or simply “Membership”, is one where the on-site content is “gated”, which means that some, or all, of its content, is accessible to its members alone. 

Now, what kinds of website visitors qualify for membership? It depends upon the membership’s model.    

Some memberships allow you to access their gated content when you simply sign up with your contact details (name, user name, email, phone no., etc.), while others could ask you for a monthly or annual amount before they grant you the same.  

What Kind of Websites Could Benefit from Membership Model? 

Simple answer: Any kind. If you think your content is powerful enough to add value to the lives of your website visitors, and the quality is so top-notch that it’s next to impossible for anyone to find content like yours anywhere else, you could choose to build a membership website.   

Let’s take a Stock market website as an example to learn how you can set up a membership that makes you money on a recurrent basis.   

Say, you've experience of 5+ years in stock trading and you've been running a blog on the same for some time now. Your topics of interest include: how to find the right stocks to invest in, how to identify market trends, how to short-list hot stocks, stock market dos, and don’ts, etc. 

But now you wish to take the next step, which is: to make more (more, if you have been earning until now) bucks with your knowledge bank using the membership/subscription model.  

What you'd need to do now is to set up a limit on the number of articles a random visitor could read without signing up for an account.    

If your free content takes their fancy, and they do decide to sign up for your membership, you can send them daily or monthly newsletters, product updates, tips, etc. This is one of the best techniques for generating quality leads for your online business. But that’s only one way of benefiting from building a membership website.    

If you're willing to take it up a notch, you can charge your visitors a monthly amount for more premium content. A content that’s not available to even those who have signed up in the past. Now, how can you make your membership content more exclusive than this? 

More exclusive in this case would mean more accurate market tips, better and more in-depth stock analysis, and more frequent updates on stock exchange activities, market reports in nuggets.    

But keep in mind that before you take the latter route, your membership’s content MUST, MUST, and MUST be of uncompromised quality. Media outlets can teach you a thing or two about how to make a piece of news appear more important and exclusive even when it has been covered to death by everyone else in the circle. 

What Does a Good Membership Website Look Like? 

I won’t leave you hanging from a point where you've to guess what a top membership website looks like. To help you know the important pages, design, flow, and business model of memberships, here is a list of three crowd-pulling membership websites (based on their monthly visits) of the world. (Credit: Ahrefs

  1. Smart blogger 

Smart blogger 

Niche: Content Marketing, Blogging 

Monthly Traffic: 59.5K 

  1. Magnetic Memory 

Magnetic Memory 

Niche: Memory improvement techniques 

Monthly Traffic: 25.6 k

  1. Orchids Made Easy 

Orchids Made Easy 

Niche: Gardening (orchid care) 

Monthly Traffic: 3.6k

Hope I’ve been successful in giving you a fair idea of the basic structure you could follow with your membership website after this not-so-long but fairly important list above. 

Now let’s get straight to the part that would help you learn how to build a highly monetizable membership website in 5-easy steps, that too without writing a single line of code.  

5 steps to Building a Membership Website of Your Own (Without Any Code)

1. Have a Clear Idea About Your Membership’s Niche 

Niche Membership Website Ideas That Worked

Having a clear idea for a membership website isn’t limited to knowing what you know the most about, or what you like writing about the most. It could be about something small, like “Rose Gardening Tips”, or something big, such as “Monster Trucks”, or maybe something really big, as in “Large Hadron Collider Updates” big.    

The important thing is to know whether a good chunk of netizens would be willing to explore your membership content or not? But how could anyone know that? By using SEO and Keyword research; the latter being a part of the former.   

If you plan to make it big in the market, then get some hands-on experience with SEO. Learn a few things on how to conduct keyword research, website trafficGoogle Trends for your membership, the difference between paid traffic and organic traffic, etc. 

Remember: What excites you might not be that exciting for your visitors too.    

So, what questions should you ask yourself before choosing a membership niche? Here is a small list:  

  • Is my membership niche big enough to be a crowd-puller?  
  • Will I be able to provide enough diverse information to my membership visitors in the long run?  
  • Is my membership's topic something that I could write on my own or would I need a team to run my membership website in the future?  
  • Is my membership theme so interesting, or important, that people will pay for it?  
  • Will I be able to keep pace with other membership owners in the niche in terms of update frequency, quality, reach, etc.?  

2. Build a Wireframe  

How to Create a Wireframe step by step

Once you're done brainstorming the idea with your membership’s team, it’s time to get a wireframe ready for your membership website. In case you’re having a hard time recalling what a “wireframe” is: it’s a mock-up (a dummy design) that shows what your website would look like once it gets ready. 

The wireframe is enough to help you understand how your membership idea looks on a computer and how it would appear to your users online. 

But make sure to not compromise anywhere at this stage of membership website development. Quality time spent while wireframing would save you a lot of it during the testing period.  

3. Decide On What’s Gated and What’s Not 

get your membership website up

New visitors would be pouring in from everywhere once you get your membership website up. Now, you can’t expect your visitors to pay for your content without letting them a have taste of it first.  

For that, you've to set a limit on the number of articles, or pages, that one could visit without signing up or paying you beforehand. Decide what pages those are going to be.    

Will it be 5 articles a day, or maybe a week? Or, are you going to offer everything for free but charge for exclusive video tutorials?   

You can also segment your whole membership platform based on users’ level of expertise. For example, if you're running a home workout program for office goers, your membership program can have levels like:  

  • 7-minutes workout,  
  • 30-minutes workout, and  
  • 45-minutes workout.   

Here, you can keep the top one free for all your membership visitors, the middle one open for those with free sign-ups, and the last one accessible only to those members who would pay you an “X” amount for a “Y” period.

4. Get a Pricing Strategy in Place 

Pricing the access rights the right way is an inseparable part of any membership’s business model. Price it too high, and you might lose even the most willing and long-time visitors. Too low, and your content might appear cheap to your potential members. Being a membership, almost all your revenue would depend mostly on recurring clients.   

Make sure that you neither get too greedy nor appear too cheap while putting together the pricing plans of your membership website.  

But what exactly should be your pricing strategy? Like any other business, pricing is a cumulative factor that depends on the cost of production, workforce size, the technology used to develop the product (in your case, the membership), time on one product (in your case, an article), etc.   

Since your membership is new, you shouldn’t risk losing readers by putting up too high a margin on your cost. The way of keeping your membership’s cost down is by cutting back on human resources (not the writers, the tech support) and the cost of membership development. But how can you do that? Read one

5. Time to Choose the Best “No-Code” Membership Development Tech 

 Best No Code Tools for membership site

And finally, the good part! The part where I tell how you can build a membership website without writing a single line of code. 

But let’s first understand what pieces of technology one needs to build membership. To build a website as complex as a membership, you'd need to have the know-how of:  

  • back-end scripting languages (ASP, PHP, etc.)  
  • front-end tools (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc.)  
  • database management (MySQL, MongoDB, etc.)  
  • external app integration (for payment gateways, video hosting, etc.)  

All of this might feel too burdening to anyone. But can’t you hire a team to take care of all the tech stuff? Yes, you could! But once your membership is up and running, you'd still need an in-house tech team to help you manage your membership-related troubles, which includes troubleshooting issues related to the domain, hosting, web traffic, internet security, payment collection, server downtime, etc. 

Isn’t that going to cost you a business? It will.    

But that’s not even the top concern while running a membership. As your core business activity is to create new content every day for your membership, every second you lose raising troubleshooting tickets with your tech team is time lost on content creation.   

So, what’s your out? Simple! Using a drag-and-drop membership building tool such as DotcomPal. DotcomPal helps you build a membership website in less than 30-minutes, using its drag-and-drop membership builder, without pushing you to write a single line of code. All you'd need is:  

  • Sign up for free by visiting DotcomPal (no need for entering your credit card details),  
  • think of a business name for your website,  
  • select what you wish to build (a landing page, website, membership, funnel, emails, etc.),   
  • choose from 300+ time-tested themes,  
  • make as many changes as you like to your membership,  
  • integrate as many external apps as you want with a single click, and  
  • Click “PUBLISH” 

It’s that easy. Having a hard time believing what you just read? Well, get started free to try it for yourself! Get your dream membership ready in a matter of minutes, without any technical hassles. 

Think we missed anything important on membership development? Let us know in the comment below and we would take note of it in no time.